06.29.10

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Why and How Microsoft Exchange Should be Replaced by Free/Libre Software

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Mail, Microsoft, Servers at 6:53 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Euro

Summary: The exchange rates are good for swapping Microsoft Exchange with something that actually works and is reliable, not just less expensive

A

T A LATER stage this week we’ll show that Gates’ investment arm has just expanded to England with a new office in London. But that’s not the subject of this post, which was sent to us by an anonymous reader.

According to this press release, “ENow Presents at Microsoft UK Headquarters” (more on Exchange lock-in). For those who ever consider building a mail infrastructure with Exchange (which is a lot of trouble not just for administrators [1, 2]), here are the words from someone with a long and painful experience:

MS Exchange keeps breaking, Apple, Android and everyone else take one for the team and take the blame:
http://support.apple.com/kb/TS3398

All the discussion is about portable devices “not working” even though it is MS Exchange that quits. They should all just get over it, that’s what MS Exchange does, it breaks. Eventually they should just learn to shut up and take what Bill has to give them, either by getting used to the fact that they will never get much done tethered to Bill’s Exchange, or by being harassed and brow beat by the Microsoft Insiders for ‘making them look bad’

http://www.kolab.org/
http://www.citadel.org/
http://www.opengroupware.org/

The late, great Zimbra should also get a mention because it is now part of Microsoft’s Yahoo. Ostensibly one of the goals of the hostile take over was to crush Free and Open Source Software developer teams like the one on Zimbra.

There are also calendar servers which integrate well with other systems. Any web designer worth his coffee grounds can hook them together with the mail service:

http://www.bedework.org/
http://andrew.triumf.ca/dingo
http://trac.calendarserver.org/

If plain old mail is what you need, then look no further than these:

http://www.dovecot.org/
http://www.postfix.org/
http://www.exim.org/

If lusers miss some of the traditional features of MS Exchange such as downtime, unreliable connections, lost mail and delayed mail, there are many work-arounds.

* Downtime can be simulated by blocking the mail ports with the firewall for a few minutes every hours. MS Exchange monkeys usually have the Windows box underneath reboot every hour, to help hid instability this takes ten minutes or so each hour.

* Unreliable connections can be simulated by having the firewall drop random packets to or from the mail service. Be sure to just drop the packets, a return will send an icmp message to let the client know and that would not be as slow.

* Lost mail can be configured into the spam filter. Just have it delete 10% – 33% of incoming and outgoing mail. 10% used to be the industry average for MS Exchange but in many deployments that loss has been improved to 20% or even 30%!

* Delayed mail can also be simulated by the firewall or by the spam filter. Just bounce the message back using the spam filter or use the firewall to temporarily block incoming messages.

That way even if you use functional software and leave MS behind, you can still experience the chaos and accusations found in MS shops. A cold-turkey move might be too much for some fragile minds and an occasional round of “didn’t you get the memo?” ought to keep them in familiar territory during the phaseout.

This is coming from someone with first-hand experience. The main reason some people choose Exchange is that they are stuck in a mentality where everything is Windows. Later on we’ll write about the role of schools in this troubling mentality.

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3 Comments

  1. dyfet said,

    June 29, 2010 at 9:32 am

    Gravatar

    Hmm…I suppose one can also write a cron job that randomly shuts down a GNU/Linux which has a long uptime, and change things like update manager to tag reboot required after each package set install, so one can truly have the same user experience of Microsoft Windows, too ;)

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Computers need to rest too. [sarcasm /]

  2. twitter said,

    June 30, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Gravatar

    The easiest way to get rid of Exchange is to get rid of Windows on the desktop. Good mail clients are available for Windows but most of them run better under GNU/Linux. Reasonable clients work better with reasonable servers than Microsoft will ever work with itself or “third party” software they sabotage. Getting rid of the uncooperative party makes everything work better. Remember IBM’s advice and move enthusiastic people first and trouble makers last. This way you work out the bugs with people who will help you and isolate people more loyal to Windows than they are to their own company.

    Windows can be served to GNU/Linux desktops in a number of ways besides dual boot, Wine or desktop virtualization. A zero effort method is to use Windows terminal services and a client like Gnome’s, “Terminal Server Client”. This is insecure but no more so than having Windows on your network in the first place and it works well. With a little more work, Windows can be virtualized and served out the same way to desktops from a server. This greatly reduces the work of keeping Windows around by making the whole system a file. With a little more work, things can be served through OpenSSH for privacy and security either as Windows terminal services or an X11 forward. Any of these takes care of the edge cases where an irreplaceable vendor has made the Windows only mistake. The vast majority of business desktops don’t need Windows at all.

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